Inspired by true life events from the acclaimed book The Long Walk, “The Way Back” is an engaging account of survival and of the value of freedom. Like all epic journeys, this one, first and foremost is about the indomitable human spirit. Through frostbites and heat strokes, through starvation and madness, 4000 miles they walked. That is the price they paid for freedom.
Janusz (Jim Sturgess), Mr. Smith (Ed Harris) and Volka (Colin Farrell) are prisoners of a Soviet Union labor camp, who, along with four others, flee their Siberian Gulag and begin a treacherous journey across thousands of miles of hostile terrain. Along the way they meet Irena (Saoirse Ronan), another escapee who tags along. From Siberia to Mongolia, then across Tibet to India, a 4000 mile trek that only three could complete. The rest, as Janusz says “died free men”.
The physical struggles of survival in extreme conditions have been captured with impressive realism. So much so that you start feeling grateful for the popcorn you’re munching. The filmmakers have done well to give it an epic feel with beautiful cinematography and some stunning dramatic moments. But “The Way Back” has one major flaw; all the escapees get along too well for a survival story, despite the presence of a pretty young girl and a hardened criminal with cannibalistic tendencies.
There is something about the portrayal of the survival spirit (especially that of Janusz) that touches a few cords. It even leaves you in awe of what the human spirit can accomplish. But the lack of drama or friction amongst the characters makes it less real. The montage in the end also seemed somewhat bizarre. But overall, it is still a great story, told in a better manner than most would.